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In recent years the Queenstown community has experienced a significant growth in tourism, resulting in no small measure from the return of a great heritage asset, namely, the West Coast Wilderness Railway. This enterprise is rightly valued for its uniqueness and for the economic benefits it has helped to bring to the West Coast. There is another treasure in Queenstown, known only to the local Catholic community, which is every bit as unique as the railway, and that is the superb intact chancel of St Joseph’s Church.

When, in the decades following the Second Vatican Council, Australian Catholic churches were re-ordered to adapt them to meet the needs of liturgical renewal, not a few precious and irreplaceable furnishings were removed and destroyed in what at times amounted to an inadequate appreciation of the letter and spirit of that renewal. Such was generally not the case, for example, with the wider Church’s vast heritage of European medieval, Renaissance and Baroque churches, where the necessary adaptation was made without imperilling the incomparable beauty of the buildings’ historic chancel furnishings.

Fortunately, at Queenstown the local community realized the beauty and importance of St Joseph’s chancel, with the result that the building has the sole remaining intact set of furnishings of any wooden Catholic church in Tasmania. In 1934 the then Parish Priest Fr Edmond Michael Roche engaged woodcarver Walter Beavis Ross-Long to produce a new set of furnishings which, with the exception of the remarkable pulpit in the Church of the Apostles, Launceston, constitute the only substantial and significant wood carving in the Archdiocese. The work adorns the altar and its reredos, wall panelling, altar rails and even the bosses on the coved ceiling. Together these furnishings constitute a chancel setting that is remarkable for its integrity and exceptional for its harmony. Queenstown’s Catholic community can be grateful for Ross-Long’s talent and dedication all those years ago which gave them this unique heritage treasure, but also for those who in more recent memory valued the work and ensured that it still graces St Joseph’s.